BMW M6 Convertible:

Is it Technology Overkill?

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Call us spoiled, but when we get into an $115,000 BMW convertible with a growling V10 engine and 500 horsepower encased in an attention getting body and shod with huge tires we would like to be able to drive it as we see fit. Unfortunately, we never could figure out the infamous SMG transmission, which does the shifting, and thinking for you despite a multitude of available personal settings. Here is what we highly recommend. Buy this car when it comes with a manual transmission and see if you are able to order it without the iDrive, too. In other words, this world class BMW is an example of technology overkill best left to passively driven sedans and tipsy SUVs. The M6 is a driver’s car of the first order. Let the driver prevail. BMWs are meant to be driven and this one spent too much time thinking.

No question this is an exotic convertible that is capable of staying with the best of its competition. It is certainly priced better than the smoother Bentley, but is dearer than the Mercedes CLK AMG 6.3. Does it drive better than those? Well, in an all out race it would be our first choice. But around town the Mercedes wins and when it comes time to draw attention the Bentley takes the honors. The M just looks too much like the standard 6 Series, which isn’t at all bad, but for the tens of thousands more you are charged you should get some recognition on the open road.

The brakes are awesome, the cockpit comfortable and well though out except for the iDrive being too close to your elbow and a cupholder that needs to be stuck into the center console area. Gas mileage was worse than the V 12 Bentley as we were lucky to get 14 mph. Of course, there is a $3000 gas-guzzler tax on the M.

If you drive hard the SMG transmisson works well. You can shift for yourself using tabs in back of the steering wheel or just leave it in drive. Either way the shifts and engine retardation is difficult to modulate and wearisome in heavy traffic. Even with the torque rich V10, which is much smoother than that in the Viper, the electrohydraulic shifts are never achieved quickly. The transmission has so many features that it even blips the throttle on downshits without your input. We have read sarcastic comments from other drivers/owners who claim that the SMG is terrific and so we urge you to temper our review by driving one yourself. Personally, we’ll wait for the stick shift.

BMW has seen fit to enable you to turn off the stability control so you may burn up the expensive tires faster. Yes, you can easily drift the BMW with the DSC turned off, but this is a $115,000 car that weighs close to 4000 pounds and despite the terrific and well weighted steering, you can’t flirt with the laws of physics without consequences. We did notice a little side stepping motion when quickly cornering over rough pavement. Again, this is a big car with a lot of weight to control and so such actions are not unexpected.

Is the M6 convertible better than the more expensive Porsche Turbo convertible? Yes, the Porsches are hard to drive and don’t even think about those maintenance costs that the BMW dealership provide free for three years. Porsche has been making a lot of money from its product line and so there is an abundance of people out there willing to pay the piper, but for our taste the BMW is a better vehicle and nearly as fast. By the way, we just saw a Mitsubishi Evo humiliate a Porsche Cayman and it reminded us of the mastery required to drive a Porsche well. The BMW does not require that degree of talent and it is so much easier to drive in traffic.

Is the M6 better than the Bentley or Mercedes? No, but it could be with a standard transmission. You put a six-speed manual in the M and you are going to have the best luxury convertible regardless of cost for those who want to drive fast and still have ample luxury. It would be a win-win-win situation with that last win being on the street or track.

The M, which stands for Motorsport, brings with it better performing engines, a sporty and very well tuned suspension that you can regulate from hard to medium to soft settings–and you are really going to notice the difference. The engine is a 5.0-liter all-aluminum V10 producing 500 horsepower at a very high 7,750-rpm with 383 pound-feet of torque. This is an engine that loves to be used and thus the poor gas mileage figures. The exhaust note is unique, just as the Viper, and not nearly as throaty as the Mercedes V8 AMG or the husky Bentley’s.

On the street the suspension is incredible. We left the electronically adjustable suspension in the comfort mode for daily driving, but in the mountains we stepped up the stiffness with the sportier setting and were quickly rewarded as the nearly two ton convertible carved corners with ease. On the other hand, if you opt for the more sporty settings the car loses it nice guy image and starts to hug the road and every imperfection with fendish delight.

The 19-inch double-spoke wheels with 255/40 tires in front and 285/35 tires in back are what immediately draws your attention when looking at the M convertible. The understated body kit has a very low front air dam that is going to scrape most driveway entrances unless you are careful. There is also a rear diffuser that is demur. This car is virtually identical to the untampered with 6 Series at first glance. We would have preferred a bit more recognition for its potential abilities.

Mom’s view: Did I mention I hated the transmission, but loved the car? If not here it is, this is one muscle bound vehicle that keeps its shirt on and lets its muscles show by its actions, not by its looks. It is clean looking, gathers gawkers by the dozens, and has a fine interior that doesn’t shout rac ecar. The leather is well done, the sport seats have a 14-way power adjustments with lumbar support and a pull out thigh support, and seat heaters, one touch power windows, a navigation system that offers real-time traffic updates, a somewhat complicated dual-zone automatic climate control that requires you to use the iDrive for outlet settings, a 13-speaker Harman Kardon stereo system, Bluetooth wireless, and a steering wheel that can be adjusted to tilt and telescopes as well. Very comfortable to ride in but more fun to drive.

The interior colors are quite bland, but go with the understated nature of the M Class. The adaptive xenon headlights are superior, but the stars of this car are the convertible top and the mysterious Power button that sits in the center console. If you go into the iDrive you can select the power options you want. If you go the P500 Sport mode you are opening up all 500 horsepower and a much more responsive throttle input reaction. The top is easy to operate. You just depress a small button under the center control stack and the top automatically raises and lowers and that includes the windows as well. The glass rear window can be left in place to use as a windblocked reducing the turbuleness in the cockpit when the top is down. It is very unique and does work while still giving you the ability to haul four passengers. The Mercedes has a portable windblocker that makes use of the rear area difficult if not impossible to access.

The top does take up a significant part of the trunk space, which isn’t all that great to begin with. The BMW M6 has 12.6 cubic feet of storage and 10.6 with the top down. Although this isn’t much, it is greater than most of the competition and shows how versatile this luxury speedster is despite its high performance.

Safetywise the M6 has the necessary, but defeatable, stability control with a “M” mode that lets you play longer and traction control, antilock brakes, front airbags, a rollover protection system, and front and rear parking sensors. The greatest safety feature it offers is its train stopping brakes and handling.

Overall, this bad boy is a well mannered reminder of what happens when you stuff a big engine into a tidy chassis with the help of some quality engineering friends. Unfortunately, that computer guy just won’t quite with the artifical intelligence tinkering. Above all ladies, if you use the more competition suspension setting think sports bra. I don’t think I have to say more about that.

Dad’s view: We didn’t put many miles on the BMW M6 convertible despite its obvious attractions. The transmission took the edge off every trip and only when we were alone or traveling in the mountains did the excellence of this convertible show its merit. There can be no doubt that this is the best convertible for performance enthusiasts for the price, The Porsche turbo might be a little faster, but just a little gravel on the road would equalize that and the BMW is much less expensive, has more room, and is easier to drive.

The engine is very demur considering its heritage. Taken from the engine building lessons from F1 competiton, the V10 really revs freely and with variable valve timing and a separate throttle butterfly for each cylinder the torque is almost linear. A remarable 8,250-rpm redline is easy to reach that you’ll find yourself thinking you are driving a four cylinder so quickly does that high number appear on the tachometer. The seven-speed automatic Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) can be shifted by using paddles or the nicely illuminated console-mounted shifter. The gear you are in is displayed crisply near the speedometer and it truly is needed because with so much power it is difficult to feel the differences between fourth and sixth, for example, in daily driving. You can program the transmission using the iDrive, but we never could get it to suit us. If you have a heavy foot don’t worry about it. This is one car that loves to be pushed. By the way, expect to pay a the pumps for this privledge as it can give you 12 mpg when provoked. When driven modestly, and why would you do so with this M, you can get over 20 mpg on premium. Fiture getting to 60 mph in about five seconds unless you spend countless hours perfecting your launch techniques. And mom always told us that practice makes perfect. In a quarter mile you are going to be doing over 115 mph as the big engine starts to reach its fun zone. Top speed is limited to 155. It is nearly as quick as the M6 coupe, which is a few hundred pounds heavier.

Young not working woman’s view: Let’s see; an Ivy League degree, masters in business management and information services, and I am still looking for a job in Tucson. With that in mind this car simply didn’t catch my interest. It was too potent for in town fun and attracted too much attention on the open road. Fast, yes, fun, well, all convertibles have a degree of fun built in, but city friendly, no. I loved its looks and would find the V8 version more to my liking. The price was also an obstacle. Personally, the BMW 3 Series convertible would be much better and with that double turbocharged engine its as quick as I would need. This M6 is the wrong guy at the wrong time. Its younger brother appeals to me more and I love that family tree. If I don’t get a job soon maybe the new 1 Series will be my suitor.

Young working/attending college male’s view: The iDrive screens are slow to react to input, the stereo loses reception at the drop of a hill, and this car’s interior can get hot in a hurry. The voice commands work fairly well, the Bluetooth is excellent, and the seats are acommodating. This car is a babe magnet of the first order. It is not really fast unless you decide to shift for yourself, but why bother. In most cases there isn’t many places you can exercise the magic 100 horsepower power button anyway, so relax and enjoy the attention. With little spare money this car was out of my range, but the free service for three years was a great incentive. Imagine what you would save over the Mercedes or Porsche during that time period. I also feel that the resale is going to be very good All in all, this BMW M6 convertible is a car to aspire to and one that only a few lucky owners will ever command. As for me, I am waiting for the new BMW 1 to arrive and with that big six cylinder optional engine and a price tag perhaps around $30,000 I am going to have a great time. Meanwhile, if you want a good deal on custom made servers and/or computers my company offers competitive rates and person costumer service in English.

Family conference: The M6 could be a daily driver or a weekend warrior, but unless you can conquer the transmission it is going to be frustrating. We found it extremely well sorted out with brakes and suspension, and ride quality first rate. The chassis is firm and the handling masterful. The engine does suck gas, but it is a V10 and that tempting power button near the radio constantly nags you with its 100 extra horsepower ready to romp. This is a real car in need of a real driver. No pretenders need apply. With a stick shift, this is an outstanding convertible with looks that both men and women can admire. And, you can get all of this in the form of a four-seater convertible to boot. As it now stands BMW stalwarts and F1 wantabes suit its mood best.

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